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The way we lived. 21. (part 1) Finding love!

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


By now we’ve left the Twelve Apostles behind us. With luck, you counted exactly twelve of them! You’re currently looking at the northernmost part of the Cape Peninsula with Llandudno in the foreground. And no, you are not in Wales! Little Lion’s Head and the Karbonkelberg Mountain overlook the village where there are no shops, restaurants or street lights!


This two-part blog is a tribute and a dedication to fifty-one years of wedded bliss; add another two years of getting to know each other!

There were many reasons to enjoy my teens. Romance formed a big part of one’s early development. Girls only really impacted me in my last two years at senior school. Reading female body language and subtle looks was a learning experience to which one soon adapted. Learn it, or lose it and be left out! My scrambled hormones with my first girlfriend of two years at school followed me into University where after a year of drifting, I found another girlfriend which also proved to be an enjoyable experience until one fateful day, it really happened!

Zonjia Arnold strode into my life. Or should that be danced into it? Love hit me. The arrow struck deep and true. So how did this happen? I blame it on the eyes. Just look at them. A mocking, challenging, and beguiling weapon that had me wobbly at the knees as I danced at a party with girlfriend number 2, her head on my shoulder for the slow numbers. Zonjia was across the small room, and I danced all evening and looked at her over my girlfriend’s head. That’s one of the benefits of having a shorter girlfriend!

To then get a lift home and sit next to Zonjia in the backseat of a VW Beetle gave us about fifteen minutes to chat before I was dropped off. Zonjia wanted to know about a surgical dressing that I had on my lower neck. My candid reply was that I had sustained a stab wound to the neck! It was a lot more interesting than to own up to having had thyroid surgery four days earlier. Zonjia believed my tale, and we parted company. Fifty-three years later, I have still not been forgiven for that foolishness!

About four months later we met up by accident. What followed was magical. How many girls tell you on the first date that they love you and will marry you. My response? “Well, I don’t know about that, you hardly know me. Anyway, I don’t believe in love!” I think Zonjia ignored my comment; just brushed it aside. She was a determined young lady. To dismiss my favourite line to a girl, was her “Love is …” moment.

My “Love is …” moment was on my first bus trip to her home in Elsies River. I always sat upstairs to enjoy the view. Think of the magnificent mountains in the west and the more distant mountains out east. About halfway through the fifteen-kilometre trip, a knife fight broke out a few seats ahead of me. Together with the rest of the ten or so people upstairs, we all charged downstairs followed by the two belligerents. Mercifully, they hopped off the bus to continue their fight. That experience did not deter me, but I never sat upstairs again on my many trips to visit Zonjia over the next two years. Now, that’s true love!

Part of our courtship was at NSH. Or was it caughtship? Who did the caughting? The “New” Somerset Hospital was over one hundred years old. In those days it was designated for “Non-Whites only” and Zonjia was a trainee nurse in residence there. When they built a “Whites only” wing to the north of the old hospital, it became the west wing; the old east wing became the north wing. Confusing? It seems that those in the know scrambled the compass points so that the White wing became the West wing; the Non-white side became the North wing! Yes, north became west, and south became north! Oh, the joys of those apartheid years! Fiendishly diabolical are the words that spring to mind!

The name aside, I really enjoyed my visits there. The trip involved a two-kilometre walk from home to Lansdowne station, then a fourteen-kilometre train trip to Cape Town followed by a four-kilometre bus ride to the hospital in Green Point. It had an ideal location along the exquisite bit of coastline where we could stroll along the rocky shore of Table Bay towards Mouille Point and Sea Point. Imagine the view – Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill behind and to the left of us. Ahead we had glimpses of the Twelve Apostles.The houses and apartment blocks were some of South Africas most expensive real estate. Did I say it was for Whites only? But why spoil the moment with those thoughts. The rocky coastline to the right of us had Table Bay’s waters stretched towards the Helderberg Mountains out east! [PS They used to have the non-PC racist name of the Hottentots Holland Mountains.]

So, imagine that view with an exquisite beauty tucked in under my arm on a cold day as Zonjia sought my warmth on our walks in wintry weather when the wild north-westerly winds whipped up the seas that crashed over the elevated walkway. Imagine sitting and chatting on a seaside bench. Was it labelled? I can’t remember. We probably ignored restrictive signs anyway!

Imagine us sharing my chicken sandwiches or a Doll House take-away chicken on the bench on a summer’s day with a gentle south-easterly wind to flatten the sea. We would sit there and wave at Nelson Mandela on the visible Robben Island which was like a low, flattened pimple surrounded by the icy waters of the Benguela current up from the Antarctic.

The smell of the sea added to those periods of bliss. I suspect that part of the fascination of it all is in my DNA. My maternal great-great-grandfather Scott was a sea captain from Stirling in Scotland. His son, my great grandfather, was a fish dealer/merchant in Claremont, Cape Town. I previously wrote about his use of saltpetre with which he pickled fish. [Saltpetre was an ingredient in gunpowder.] It probably explains my love of the sea – fishing, diving, caravanning … Add a bubbly personality with those magnetic eyes to the sound of the waves, the sight of the sea in all its moods, and the sea smell all around. I just had to be hooked!

A flattened Table Bay came into its romantic best after sunset. Now imagine the full moon rising while we steal kisses and chat and chat and chat away on our bench. The real magic of that is the reflection of the moonlight. Now, again, imagine that golden pathway that reached to our feet on our bench. Yes, it could not be more romantic. Best of all, it was free! I used to point at “Our Pathway of Light” and that we would have to follow it one day. Little did we know that we really would when we finally headed out east toward New Zealand and Australia! Yes, our guiding light to the east was our moonlit pathway.

It took me six months before I could say the magic words – “I love you”. Zonjia responded appropriately and said, “What took you so long!” For those of you who know her, just picture those sparkling eyes at their impish best with the left lower lip pulled down a touch. Worse yet, the raised shoulders and half-raised hands, palms directed upward, the forehead furrowed!

That moonlit pathway is still there as our exceptional relationship morphed into soulmate-ship. Being a perfect height to fit under my arm helped. Being a wonderful mother was no surprise. Being an amazing person with so much human warmth and love for all never ceases to astound me.

[Part 2 to follow.]


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